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Swing Astral 5 reviewed by Greg Hamerton

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Construction
Standard Swing construction with a fairly light fabric. The brake loops are simple and bendy, the risers are very nice being minimalistic (thin 12mm webbing) with magnetic keepers (snap).

Unsheathed lines have been used in the upper cascade to increase performance slightly. This doesn't compromise safety since these lines are shaded (under the wing) and protected (on the wing during layout). Just don't hook the glider on a bush, or you'll hear 'ping!'.

Handling
The brakes are light up to about 1/3 brake, so thermalling turns are easy. The wing stays nice and flat in a turn, but can still be tightened up if needed. It could have a little more bite in the turn but then it would probably be too active - I'd say that Swing have got it just right with this one.

I've had three excellent long flights with this wing, and didn't tire in the air, which means it is reassuring and undemanding to fly.

The first flight was setting the site record from Koringberg (74km), alongside my friend Craig Richards on his Stratus5. The second was a 117km xc from Porterville, landing near Robertson. This flight took many hours, and I had the pleasure to thermal up in a dust-devil (wing was well-behaved), scratch up from ridiculously low (great precise turns) and fight some grumpy headwinds (good feedback). Finally a 50km triangle attempt at Koringberg ended a little short as I tried to blast upwind against the afternoon sea breeze. That was a day of light , small thermals and I was the only pilot to get away from the hill.

I'd say that Swing have got it just right with this one!

There is a small velcro opening on the wingtip to allow grit and sand out after that coastal soaring holiday. A useful idea. A nice place to stash those secret dollars.
 

Safety
What a pleasure to be flying a DHV2. It has good passive stability and can just be cruised, hands off. It handles the grotty bouncy stuff really well.

Performance
The previous model, the Astral 4, had a glide of 8.5, and this one is a notch up, so I suspect around 8.8 (but I need more comparisons to be accurate). It kept up with a Stratus5 (Swing's 2005 Competition glider) on an 80km cross-country across lots of flatlands, only losing very slightly in glide and during rough-air transitions. Considering that I don't fly with a pod harness so have extra drag in comparison to the comp-rigged Stratus this is impressive.

In a recent competition, the Astral5 was certainly no worse than the Aspen2 which stayed very close for long sections of the tasks. On a big glide against the Nova Tycoon (DHV2/3) and Gradient Avax XC (DHV3) there was a noticeable loss of glide performance crosswind or into wind, but when going downwind the difference was small and was often compensated for by the ability to speed up and remain stable.

This is an important point. If you are hoping to get more performance than the Astral5 and upgrade to a DHV2/3 or comp glider but you're not an absolute ace, you'll be too scared to fly the hotship on full speedbar, and it's only when you fly at that speed that you'll gain a performance advantage. On a normal xc route, going downwind, or in big strong thermic flatlands, you won't see the difference. So why bother upgrading? The Astral will keep you enjoying the race, even on full bar. In a rough-conditions race-into-goal the Astral5 managed to outrace the Avax XC and a Boomerang 4, purely because the pilot could keep the speedbar out.

The thermalling is excellent, and here I made up for the slight glide disadvantage against competition gliders by outclimbing them. It will be hard to catch this wing on a light day.

Speed
No comparisons yet, but definitely over 50kmh. Speedbar travel is 17cm of shortening on the A-risers, then B's are allowed to slip only 25mm. The C and D's are released in a linear progression. This is the usual setup for increased stability but slightly reduced performance at speed over a straight linear progression.

Other pilot's comments
Bruce Yelland, an xc-master, said he didn't want to keep the wing (after trying it out) because 'it will make me do something stupid, like fly into the lee. It makes me feel overconfident. It's just too easy to fly.' He also called it 'the best thermalling glider I've ever flown in my life'. Even flying the wing heavily loaded with ballast he found he was able to outclimb almost everybody. He enjoyed the feedback from the wing. His only criticism was the lack of competition-class glide performance into wind, but that was a criticism of DHV2 class as a whole, and he decided to buy a wing in the DHV2/3 class because he could 'definitely handle a wing that was more unstable than this and still feel safe'. He highly recommends it for the majority of pilots and said he would choose it for flying in hectic places like Kuruman (desert record-flying) where he wanted reassurance and rock solid stability. 'It thermals unbelievably well,' he added. 'Did I mention that already?'

Darron Guberman, acro pilot and reviewer, said "It's got a comfy cosy turn, launch is easy. I noticed it has a bit of a delay when you decide to crank it. Not like it wouldn't move, just a little delay. In general I liked it."

Summary
Similar to the Astral4, it's such a complete wing it's difficult to criticise it, because they've done the design right, it works, there are no problems. It's a superb thermaller, and it has a great feeling in the air. My kind of wing, I'd say this is the best DHV2 I've flown. I keep trying to steal the demo away from the dealer (but he wants to fly it too, so he steals it back!)